Ursula Gets Engaged, and You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next! (Sorry…)

Ursula Cheshire wedding announcement

The March 29, 1925 edition of the “Oakland Tribune” announces Ursula and Sidney’s wedding

Once Ursula and Sidney were engaged, they couldn’t wait to be married. What was the hurry? In the flapper era of shorter skirts and “petting parties” among the younger generation, was Ursula a “nice” girl who considered sex outside of marriage scandalous? Perhaps she truly loved Sidney and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, or perhaps she mistook lust for love. Short of finding her diary (one could only hope!), we will never know. It seems their romance was intoxicating enough that they were married just a short time later—one week, in fact!

Not only that, but, according to the Oakland Tribune, they also eloped! Apparently, a week after they were engaged in Florence, Ursula and Sidney:

“…left the Cheshire apartment for a luncheon. A message that they had been married in London on February 27 was the next word Mrs. Cheshire had from her daughter.”

Another article in the Tribune, published on March 29, reported that the couple was spending a honeymoon in London, “where the marriage occurred.”

They may have had a ceremony in London, but I discovered that Ursula Claire Cheshire and Sidney Lanier Bartlett were legally married later—on April 16, 1925 in the Chiaia district of Naples, Italy by Barone Michele Chiaranda. Behold, their “Certificate of Marriage,” issued by the Consular Office of the United States of America:

Ursula Cheshire Marriage certificate

Marriage certificate for Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett, April 16, 1925

Naples

1920s postcard depicting a scene in Naples, Italy

At 20 years old, Sidney was considered a minor, and required written permission from his mother, Pansy Edna Bartlett, which she evidently provided.

Whatever will happen next? Stay tuned…

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Meet Ursula’s Fiancé, Sidney Lanier Bartlett

Passport photo

Passport photo for Sidney Lanier Bartlett and his mother, Pansy Edna Bartlett

When we left off, it was February 1925. Ursula had just gotten engaged to a young man after their whirl-wind romance in Florence and Rome. At this point, we know a lot about Ursula, but who was this man to whom she planned to vow, “I do”?

Here is what I’ve found out by researching various online resources, including Ancestry.com, a digitized year book, historic newspapers, and more:

When Ursula met Sidney Lanier Bartlett, he was 19 years old going on 20—three years her junior. He was born on May 8, 1905 in Los Angeles, California, to Pansy Edna Bartlett and Lanier Bartlett, a prominent and well-to-do couple.

A young Sidney with his mother, published in the society column of the Los Angeles Herald (May 30, 1909)

A young Sidney with his mother, published in the society column of the Los Angeles Herald (May 30, 1909)

A seemingly sardonic item published May 30, 1909 in the “Society News of the Week” column of the Los Angeles Herald described Sidney’s mother as:

“A charming young matron who has entrée to the exclusive social circles of Los Angeles, but finds it far more interesting and engrossing being the mother and companion of a sturdy young son who has not yet attained to the dignity of five summers…”

The article goes on: “Neither Mrs. Bartlett nor her talented husband care at all for society, choosing rather the life of the literati.” (It’s funny that a large photo of Pansy and her “little son” Sidney dominated that day’s society column.)

Sidney's father, screenwriter Lanier Bartlett

Sidney’s father, screenwriter Lanier Bartlett

Sidney’s father was a Los Angles Times reporter and prolific Hollywood screenwriter, with many westerns and other dramas to his credit. Sidney’s namesake, Sidney Lanier, was his father’s cousin, and a poet, novelist and musician. Sidney’s grandfather, W. S. Bartlett, served as president and later chairman of the board of LA’s Union Bank of Savings. The Bartletts were said to be an “old southern family.”

Sidney’s parents divorced in 1919 when he was almost 14 years old. The summer after he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1923 at age 18, Sidney and his mother set sail for Europe from the port of New York, on board the Conte Rossa. According to Pansy’s passport application, they planned to travel to the British Isles, France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. Sidney would study art at the University of Paris.

Pansy Edna Bartlett's 1923 passport application

Pansy Edna Bartlett’s 1923 passport application

Because he was considered a minor, Sidney did not have his own passport. Rather, he had to travel under Pansy’s auspices, appearing with her in her passport photo (at top of post).

If we went by only this post’s two photos of young Sidney, we might think he was a “Mama’s boy,” but a year-and-a-half later, he met the woman of his dreams. I wish I had found a photo of Ursula and her fiancé from that period, but suffice to say she was charmed and smitten by him—and vice versa.

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